Gadgets

OnePlus Nord Buds CE: Excels, only in the right environment

OnePlus Nord Buds CE: Excels, only in the right environment

OnePlus Nord Buds CE: Excels, only in the right environment | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The days when largely unaffordable Apple AirPods ruled the market in splendid isolation are long gone. With the 3.5mm jack now disappearing from more and more smartphones, high-quality yet affordable true wireless earphones are quickly becoming a must-have tool for not just those on the move, but even the audio connoisseurs who demand studio-level excellence from their budget-friendly tech.

The launch of the OnePlus Nord Buds CE in the Indian market caused a buzz as the brand has been known for its accessibly-priced products. We lent our ears to the buds to hear what they sounded like.

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Packaging and Design

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE arrived in sturdy, compact cardboard packaging. There was a USB-C/USB-D charge cable, the two buds in their white charging pod, an instructions booklet, a sticker, and a welcome card with member benefits. 

The smooth white charging pod has the name of the company printed in grey, and a pinhole-shaped light to indicate when charging is required. It is light and easy to handle.

The buds themselves have a chunky white finish and extend to the earlobe when inserted. There are two small metallic spots at the bottom of each bud to help them slip into the magnetic charging case with ease. Overall, the design is sleek, attractive, and has a trendy feel that is stylistically similar to Apple’s second generation AirPods.

OnePlus Nord Buds CE: Excels, only in the right environment

OnePlus Nord Buds CE: Excels, only in the right environment | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Buds’ semi in-ear design comes with its pros and cons. Since it does not sit too deep in the ear canal, the buds can be used for many hours without irritating or straining the ear. They remain clean and oil-free. However, the distance from the eardrum means one inevitably has to listen to their music and calls at a higher volume - at least 50% or even more. The complete lack of noise cancellation will be a problem for wearers hoping to use their buds during long flights, train rides, or while working in a lively office.

Sound

You know the OnePlus Nord Buds CE are powerful listening aids as soon as you connect to Bluetooth and turn up the first song. The 13.4 mm titanium drivers deliver a formidable but not overbearing bass. The HeyMelody app allows you to choose from four modes - bass, balanced, serenade, gentle, and a game mode to customise your listening experience. However, the app was not compatible with my MacBook laptop, where I listen to most of my music.

Whichever mode you use, the carefully mixed audio and high-fidelity sound is an absolute delight. I listened to ASMR, rock, heavy metal, pop, and instrumental symphonies; the Nord Buds CE excelled in almost every genre. Vocals are clean and bright while instruments are flawlessly layered. Background and ambient sounds are captured with pleasant crispness and clarity. However, the semi in-ear design means external distractions can get in the way of your listening experience. The Buds are ideal for relaxing in a quiet environment or working in a place free of ambient noise. 

While the Buds work beautifully for almost all genres of music and media, those with hearing or auditory processing issues may want to opt for a pair with less sound loss, as volume needs to be set over 80% to truly enjoy music at extremely low or high frequencies. I did not enjoy listening to opera or classical symphonies with the Buds for this reason, as I was constantly adjusting the volume. The company states the frequency response is 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz.

I also tried taking some calls and attending a work meeting while using the Buds, but found that the audio was more grainy than I expected. My wired earbuds provided better quality in these areas.

There are several touch commands users can try in order to switch between tracks and take calls. However, the AI Noise Cancellation for calls was not a feature I realised existed until I read the product’s user guide.

Specs vs Daily Usage

The Buds arrived fully charged and I put them to work immediately. They lasted slightly over 10 hours with continuous use during which I listened to music on YouTube and took part in a lengthy conference call. Once the buds died, however, bringing them back to life was easily done. The flash charge feature is nothing short of impressive, as a single 15 minute rest in the case was enough for both earbuds to achieve 60% charge again. Users on the run or those who frequently forget to keep their devices charged will certainly benefit from the 27 mAh battery capacity per earbud and the the 300 mAh capacity charging case. I received the product on Sunday and after heavy usage, only needed to charge the case on Wednesday night. The company guide claims playback lasts up to 4.5 hours while phone calls are up to 3 hours and combined playback is up to 20 hours.

That being said, the Buds feel like an indoor gadget. While OnePlus encourages users to take the Buds to the gym or bring it out on rainy day walks due to its IPX4 rating against water and sweat, I wouldn’t recommend this. The semi in-ear design was loose and fell out several times whether I was hopping around my home to test their grip, or stretching in my office chair. In particular, the left bud kept slipping out of position constantly. Jogging or sweating with the buds in feels risky and it’s hard to forget they are there.

The Nord Buds CE have Bluetooth 5.2 and latency as low as 94 ms6, the company claims. The Buds supposedly work best with OnePlus phones, but I used my set with a Google Pixel 6 and a MacBook Air and the compatibility was excellent.

The earphones’ range is about 10 meters, which the company noted as well. The available colors are Moonlight White and Misty Grey.

Verdict

While the OnePlus Nord Buds CE lose out considerably on immersion due to their semi in-ear design, they truly elevate the listening experience thanks to clean, vivid sounds that are true to life. Stylish, comfortable, and armed with a long battery life, the Buds will be a great companion to budget-hunters working from home who can accept the semi in-ear design.

A USB-C/USB-C charging cable would have also been more useful than what was provided, but this is a minor qualm.


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Printable version | Aug 12, 2022 6:36:03 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gadgets/oneplus-nord-buds-ce-china-earphones-review/article65761581.ece